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FAQ - Oil Heating, Hot water production and plumbing “funnies” in France


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[quote user="ErnieY"]

Thanks, though so,

I know that pressurised systems are the norm in France but are they

mandatory and would it actually be illegal to fit say a UK type

system with storage tank & "ballon" etc. One can argue of course

that nothing is illegal until you get caught and there's probably

little chance of that in one's own cellar but there is the insurance

side of it to consider.

The boiler in my house is about 15 years old and although it's in

good working order the whole system seems horribly inefficient as

witnessed by the amount of oil it consumes v the hot water and

heating it produces, most of which clearly is down to the limited

storage capacity. The system used to

have a ballon but at some time it was removed and

the pipes capped off so it would be a very easy job to refit

one.

I have had oil heating in the UK for the last 20 years (non

condensating boilers) so have got a pretty good idea of annual

consumtion but this byzantine monster gobbles about

double what I would expect and is noisy to boot, not to mention

taking up something like 4x the floor space of a conventional UK one.

I have considered bypassing the whole thing, replacing it with a UK

type system but leaving the old boiler in place so that, come the

day I might want to sell, I could revert back to the French system

quite easily if neccessary.

[/quote]

First of all, the burner of a UK oil boiler wouldn't work over here

because - unlike in the UK - the CH oil in France is actually farmer's

red diesel.

Secondly, why would you want to install a British system which would

ensure you had such a pathertic dribble out of the taps that you

couldn't have a decent shower ? (quite apart from it probably being

ilegal!)

We may not have everything right over this side of the channel, but a

simple, efficient hot water system which give you a decent shower is

certainly one of them.

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What is really the point in even considering "A UK type system................." when:

1.    They are more expensive:

2.    Any warranty and/or service problems would mean de-mounting the boiler and taking it back to the UK for service?

3.    UK systems are rapidly emulating continental systems: it's just that we- as always - call them by a different name. In this case, Combi boilers. Condensing Combi boilers - which indeed work as a sealed system at mains water pressure - are little different from French systems. Both normally have a reserve DHW storage vessel.

As already pointed out, UK fuel (Burning Oil) has a different Specific Gravity to French Red Diesel - or Fuile - thus the two systems are not interchangable.

Finally, there is the little matter of French regulations and perhaps more importantly, insurance acceptance.

As French property law is increasingly tightened up, it will probably prove important - if not critical  - to ensure conformity to French regs for a successful sale. Why make life hard?

I often suspect that this repeating insistence on "UK type/UK Regs" is a corollary for "Don't understand this French plumbing/wiring stuff.............." It is not hard nor is it rocket science.

Opal Fruit has taken huge trouble to lay out the basics at the beginning of this thread. This is a wonderful and very valuable resource. Additionally, other members are only too happy to offer their learned experience and hard won advice.

Stick with the programme, Ernie; update or replace. Make life simple. [:D]

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  • 6 months later...
I intend to use an evac tube system for the DHW eventually, but space heating? ??   I know they generate some heat even on overcast days, but sufficient to make a difference? I'd be very interested to hear of any working space heating systems in central france.

p

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I am just about to install them on my house, once the permit comes through, I will let you know how it gets on.

Naturally, the times you need the most heat (winter nights) there is

little or no radiation around, so you need more panels and larger

storage to last through the night. But each panel can generate up to 20

kw so is going to get the job done so long as you not heating a

chateau  in le Loire.

We have an in-line gas heater feeding radiators and DHW so the solar

system will feed with already heated water, so conseqently my gas

consumption goes down considerably. Payback for me should be 3 years,

afterthat its money in the bank ....  I like it.

Andrew

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  • 4 weeks later...
just to change tac a little on this thread. I have just bought our first house in france which does have central heating and a seperate electric hot water tank. The oil burner for the heating does not heat the water tank.

I have a few questions:-

1. Do the hot water tanks all have prepared connectors for utilising the oil boiler or are there two types, one with connections and one without, similar to the UK where you have tanks without the coils or with.

2. The central heating boiler is manually switched on via what looks like a two pole switch on the wall alongside the boiler. I would like to place a timer device on this to allow me to keep the house aired while we are not there during the winter. What would a typical current be for the boiler?? Can I purchase a timer from the UK without contravening any French rules/Regs/Insurance. I have no issue in completing the timer install, just need to know I can do it with stuff I know and this thread suggests it is cheaper from the UK too)

3. Would the timer be used to directly switch on the boiler in line from the two pole switch?? It seems simpler in the UK as you have clearly defined connections on the boilers and it is the first time I have worked on oil fired boilers.

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[quote user="robbie"]just to change tac a little on this thread. I have just bought our first house in france which does have central heating and a seperate electric hot water tank. The oil burner for the heating does not heat the water tank.

I have a few questions:-

1. Do the hot water tanks all have prepared connectors for utilising the oil boiler or are there two types, one with connections and one without, similar to the UK where you have tanks without the coils or with.

Both types are available but in my expereince it is somewhat harder to find those with an inderect heating coil

2. The central heating boiler is manually switched on via what looks like a two pole switch on the wall alongside the boiler. I would like to place a timer device on this to allow me to keep the house aired while we are not there during the winter. What would a typical current be for the boiler?? Can I purchase a timer from the UK without contravening any French rules/Regs/Insurance. I have no issue in completing the timer install, just need to know I can do it with stuff I know and this thread suggests it is cheaper from the UK too)

Don't do it.  Buy a french one, it will probably be cheaper.

3. Would the timer be used to directly switch on the boiler in line from the two pole switch?? It seems simpler in the UK as you have clearly defined connections on the boilers and it is the first time I have worked on oil fired boilers.
[/quote]

Perhaps you should invest a few euros in an electrician.  If you don't know what you are doing then playing around with the power feed to yoour boiler may not be the best learning platform.

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thaks for the advice, I have no issues in the wiring side of things, just need to make sure I get the correct components I guess. I will make a visit to my local plumber/heating merchant and see what they can offer. I would rather pay a little more for UK kit so I know I can get the job done without language barriers when I go back in a week or so. I only have 2 days there so need ot make sure it is done for when I leave

cheers

Rob

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My boiler is just plugged into an ordinary 2 pin socket and I think for less than €10 I bought a mechanical timer to control it with so why not simply add a socket to your existing arrangment and do likewise.

The downside of such a simple arrangement is that in the event of a power cut the timer will stop until power is restored and therefore go out of sync with real time. The way around that would be to buy a more comprehensive one with a backup battery.

Your boiler should have a label on it somewhere stating it's rating but at worst it's unlikely to exceed a few hundred watts.

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after much diggin around, I am going to install a timer/programmer (battery backed) and alongside this a frost stat/pipe stat configuration.

This should give me the flexibility for a series of eventualities.

All I need now is enough oil in the flaming tank!!!

Thanks guys for your responses and suggestions. I am off to France in dec and will hopefully resolve this issue then. I just hope the frost hasnt done anything in the meanwhile :)

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  • 1 month later...

Hello Peter,

Just perusing the forums and came across your historic comments regarding woodfired CH systems. I have inherited a rather valueless but charming village house nr Carcassonne and intend to renovate it , as cost effectively as poss! Am considering installing some form of heating and hitherto had intended to use electric under floor mats to ground floor and a wood burner to our upper floor sitting room.  However, to increase the efficiency, it makes sense to consider installation of back boiler to service rads to other areas.  Frankly the house will not see much winter use but heating would be desired at some point.

Cost of installation is the main consideration.

If you feel inclined to advise, I would welcome some dialogue.

Regards,

 

sebastian

 

 

 

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  • 5 weeks later...
  • 4 months later...

im sorry as im sure this may have been coverd before but i cant find it.

i have a 200Li elec water boiler that i want to install, easy in UK 35amp hook up and hot cold in and out,  In France am i right in saying i need to fit a restrictor valve on the cold intake? and is it a 35amp hook up also which just attaches to the two screw connectors (live & neutral to either connector)?  and are there any other funnies?  earth?

or is it as simple as i hope it will be?

thankyou

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Assuming that it is a French 200L chauffe-eau, then the supply is a 20A (dedicated) one. You need to fit a "groupe de securite" (safety valve) to the cold feed (which also provides a drain-off point) and a pressure reducer if the incoming pressure is above 3 bar (you should fit the PR to the incoming cold supply, otherwise the hot and cold water pressures will be unbalanced - contra to a very useful feature of pressurised hot water systems).

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Thanks for the advice, but can you tell me exactly what the  tableau to the earth bar is?  i was just going to earth it to the rest of the plumbing which itself is earthed,

there are two terminal connectors that go through a small box then run onto the bottom of the tank, and also out of the small box is a metal strip which is bolted to the main tank which i presumed is where i take the earth from?

i have a good clear picture but cant seem to paste it into this thread?

thanks again peeps,

lee

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  • 2 weeks later...
Great info. nicely laid out too.

Can I just add a few things that may have been missed out. I did read through the thread but don't remember seeing this..

Plumbing;

If you're using copper, then run all the main feed around to the areas you wish to supply in 18mm pipe. Once a point is reached, then you reduce down to the recomended sizes. These sizes are usually displayed in leaflets or display cards in places such as Mr. Bricolage etc. or can be found on the appliances themselves.

If memory serves me well, it goes something like this,

WC = 10mm

Wash basin = 12mm

Bath/kitchen sink = 14mm

It's something like that, so keep your eyes open or enquire as to the correct way.

Flexi connection hoses also come in these sizes, but are sometimes a bit of a pain to get a hold of.  I had a right laugh trying to make sure I got all the correct fittings in one run to the merchants rather than having to go back again for forgotten/never considered parts. Sometimes I found I would be visiting several different suppliers to get the exact bits required.

One of the strangest things I ever saw was fully profesional French plumbers stood in the merchants for hours working out exactly which bits they wanted. I have seen this happen several times with different plumbers. Always stood around scratching there heads and checking over sketches or notes they made.

If you've bought all your kitchen bathroom appliances, this will make life a bit easier. Either position the appliances or make a diagram of where you would like them to go...then measure up for all the pipe you'll need.

Remember, 18mm for main runs, then 'Tee' off or feed to the appliances in required sizes. This way, you wont buy too much or too little of any particular pipe and you can work out from there exactly how many bends/straight couples/tee's/reducers you'll need.

In the UK, the rule is 1 pipe clip every meter..so you can happily apply that principle in France too. I'm pretty sure there's no regs on pipe clips.

A plumbing tip;

If you've just done a connection to older plumbing and you can't get the old joint soldered, then replace the joint itself. Ensure the pipes on both sides (old/new) are cleaned with wire wool and wiped with a cloth. Sometimes this replacing of a joint will also solve the problem of getting a leak from a newly installed run of plumbing. You just somehow get that odd connection that never sits right. Again, replace the connection.

The pipe doesn't matter too much as it's usually the connection that is the problem.

Have you done your kitchen/bathroom in wood or other dark materials with low lighting? Are you showing the copper piping ?

Buy a tube of autsol http://www.autosol.com/ and polish up all visible pipe/connections..you'll be amazed as to how it will look. It also helps to keep the pipe work in good condition and will never cease to amaze those who see it. Many will aks how you did it.

Autosol meta polish (in the tubes) is a fine paste and rubs off the top surface of most metals. It will remove scratches and the more you use it the higher qulaity the finish. Copper and aluminium can be given a mirror finish.

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Lee,

The tableau is the 'Tableau d'electricite' ie the 'fuse box' in old fashioned UK terms, except of course no one uses fuses any more (?). Its the box where all your distribution switches are (disjoncteurs).

Your three core feed comes from  a dedicated outlet in this box, the earth core of that 3 core feed is connected to the earth bar in that box. The earth bar is a brass coloured bar with multiple holes and clamping screws at each hole. All the green / yellow individual circuit earths are connected at that bar, the bar itself is connected to your house main earth.

Your assumption that the metal strip is the tank earth point is correct, it should have a connection screw already available in it. I would expect it to be marked with the earth symbol.

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  • 1 month later...

Hi.

I would like to ask a question on this matter as I too am contemplating installing a chauffe eau system but in all of the articles on this subject there has been no mention of the energy efficiency ratting with these boilers, the only ratting's that are in the info package for some of these boilers that I have seen are in the class B. So from this am I to assume that class B is the norm?

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Well, looked at from the point of view of the energy efficiency of the fuel: how much of the energy you buy is converted to usable heat, then electrical water heating is - to all intents and purposes - getting on for 100%. The losses then come from the boiler casings, and the pipework.

Much higher than oil, say, or ordinary wood boilers (as opposed to gassification wood boilers).

paul
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  • 1 month later...

Dear oh dear oh dear!

I leave this forum for a bit and it goes to pot!

Opel Fruit only touched on soldering and brazing, in his invaluable treatise on French plumbing and heating and after reading some of the nonsense lately, I thought it was time for some clear and cogent information.

Soldering:

This is a process where metals are joined, not for mechanical strength but mainly to promote an effective seal. The solder forms an amalgam (Def. An homogeneous mixture or solid solution of two or more metals, the atoms of one replacing or occupying interstitial positions between the atoms of the other) and becomes an alloy of the solder filler and parent metal. The bonding effect is thus molecular.

Mechanical strength of solder is low: solder mixtures are designed for low melting point, not strength. (Excepting “Hard” solders and certain specialised solders – see below - such as Aluminium Solders, Stainless Steel Solders and etc. which are outside the cope of this item).

Copper plumbing pipe, correctly soldered, will withstand significant pressure, far above that experienced in even French mains water head pressure systems. Typically. 200-300 PSI/13.78-20.68 Bar. Which is far beyond the point of Failure of the pipe itself.

Brazing:

Brazed joints using Copper-Phosphorus or Silver-Copper Phosphorus filler rods provide far greater mechanical strength, since the tensile strength of the filler rod – which is the critical aspect – is far higher than that of the parent metal.

Most brazing, per se is carried out using Silicon-Bronze filler rods, or exceptionally  Manganese-Bronze filler rod. MB rod goes in at a much lower temperature and does not cause excessive changes to the crystalline structure at the edge of the joint: always a weak point for all brazed and welded metal joins.

Copper cannot be successfully brazed with Silicon-Bronze filler rod.

Swaging copper pipe to create a join whilst easy, promotes a weak point at the neck of the swage, since the metal here has been stretched, thus introducing strain lines in the molecular structure: additionally as the metal has been stretched, it is thinner and thus weaker than was originally.

One benefit for brazed copper pipe joints is their resistance to breakage under abnormal pressures: when frozen for example. However for all practical purposes, the application of brazed joints requires Oxy-Acetylene or Oxy-Propane or Oxy-MAPP equipment, able to promote and maintain far higher temperatures than single gas air torches. Normal torches (or blowlamps if you like) gain their oxygen for the combustion process from the surrounding air: a useful free draft effect is gained by their construction. Mixed gas torches combine the more effective combustion possible from using oxygen, with the pressure force effect of the oxygen gas being energetically pushed through the mixing chamber by pressure; typically 5-6 PSI/0.344-0.41Bar upwards.

General:

Solder is normally described as "Hard" and "Soft". This descriptor normally denotes the melting point of the solder itself. Hard solders contain silver, in varying proportions; this is normally called Silver Solder and is commonly used where greater mechanical strength is required: the melting point of Silver Solder is far higher and requires better equipment than a simple single gas powered torch.

Silver solders are used for a variety of demanding applications, which include the jewellery trade, medical applications and joining Carbon Tungsten tool tips to lathe and milling tooling. They are also used for extremely high pressure hydraulics assembly, for controls systems in (e.g.) aircraft, where a robust joint is essential capable of resisting thousands of pounds per square inch, without compromising the innate strength of pipe work.

Lead free soft solders (Typically 90% + Tin -  <8% Silver -  <2% Copper), are now mainly specified for potable water installations.

In any metal jointing process, cleanliness is a paramount key to a strong and pressure tight joint.

Soft metals (typically Copper, aluminium etc), oxidise from bright, immediately on exposure to air. If the surface of a metal is even slightly oxidised, then an amalgam joint will be faulty.

Soldering fitted joints relies on the capillary effect of all fluids. Once the solder is molten it “Creeps” into the joint. A good bright joint evidences completion by the tiny ring of solder, which appears on the end of the fitting. Adding excess solder past this point is not only useless, it carries the risk of over-heating the work and destroying the amalgam and thus the bond. It is also unsightly.

The correct temperature of the work is reached when the solder melts easily and runs controllably, into the joint. If the solder melts instantly and drops off the work, then the work is far too hot and will compromise the integrity of the joint.

Normally, sufficient heat can be carried by conduction into the pipes by simply heating the fitting. Over-heating is the classic mistake of the beginner. It tends to burn the flux (Oxidation) and this creates slag which makes a good solder bond to the parent metals all but impossible. The joint may look alright, but invariably is "Dry" and patchy.

A good solder joint should be bright and shiny.

FLUXES:

These serve two disparate purposes. The first and simplest is the exclusion of air from the joint whilst being heated.

Heating soft metals causes a far greater rate of free oxidation. The chemical combustion of the fuel gas/gases also adds further impurities to the surface of the metal.

Years ago, the simplest flux used for electronic soldering was Rosin: ideal if you were also a violinist or cellist! (It is still used on certain demanding work, such as steel ropes used in (e.g.) mines for lifting skips and buckets)

Joints were cleaned, prior to fluxing, using Baker's Fluid (A proprietary cleaner) also known as Killed Spirit: Hydrochloric Acid with Zinc dissolved into the acid to neutralise it. It become Zinc Chloride.

The second use of flux.

A modern soldering flux paste cleans, excludes air (it changes its chemical composition on the application of heat and forms a harder air-resistant coating), and facilitates the amalgam process additionally, rather as a catalyst speeds and enables a chemical reaction.

To Clean Or Not To Clean?

 I am most unhappy with the suggestion that pipe work and joints need no cleaning.

In manufacture a number of processes are used to produce continuous seamless copper tube: same with all fittings. Inevitably, these employ various chemicals.

Additionally, foreign matter often finds its way inside tubes and fittings.

Copper is a very energetic element and will ally with a vast range of chemical compounds and other elements, and in doing so, produces a raft of salts: sulphates, sulphites, chlorides, chlorates etc.

Personally, I would ALWAYS clean outside and inside mating surfaces, in order to avoid unwanted products of the chemical reaction between the copper tube and fittings and the flux being carried, unseen, inside the joint by (normally) the capillary action of the solder filler.

Such foreign matter in any metal and heat process be it smelting, foundry, welding, brazing and soldering is generically called “Slag”.

Slag creates weakness in all metal jointing processes and invariably causes failures: pinholes in solder are very difficult to see with the naked eye: but they make themselves felt when you turn on the water and a tiny jet blows water into a small fountain!

Perhaps worse is the joint with included slag, which suddenly fails a year or two later when you are not watching!

As with so many craft skills, people who do this every day develop an “Eye”: with solder, one’s eye tells you precisely when stick filler is about to run, if for example, working on soldering zinc guttering: or joining lead pipe to lead pipe: or filling car bodywork. There is a tiny margin between solder being workable and dropping on your toes! And this is where the eye comes in.

Essential for “Wiping” lead joints. Too cold and it is not a cogent joint: too hot and it’s all over your boots!

However, here we are dealing with mainly amateurs: skilled amateurs many of us, who are turning our hands to a wide range of artisan’s jobs.

Therefore clean, ideally with OO grade wire wool. Then flux: then heat: and then join.

Finally, and this is important, after the joint has cooled a little, wipe off ALL excess and visible flux with a clean damp rag.

Flux is highly corrosive, for weeks after the pipe work is installed and forgotten.

If necessary, because you have been over-enthusiastic with the flux, clean the cold surface with clean wire wool, which has been wetted slightly: and wipe down with a clean damp rag afterwards.

Don’t forget to also run a reasonable quantity of water through the finished work and straight into the drain, to wash out flux in side the pipes. Be even more thorough with tap feeds.

Happy Plumbing!

 

 

 

 

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  • 2 years later...

Hi all

Have oil fired mostrous boiler - need to raise the pressure - please which "knob" do I turn?||  Have done it in the past but have forgotten - old age|

Any helpful suggestions gratefully received.

Is it the red knob on top of the pressure gauge?

Thanks

WendyG

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A bit of a difficult question as there can be many different set ups and permutations.

Typically though there will be a pressure regulator on the incoming main water supply not on the boiler itself. Your 'red knob' my be the pressure relief valve manual release.

What makes you think the pressure is too low, normally it shouldn't vary very much ?

PS: Not an altogether good idea to resurrect a 2 year old thread, far better to start a new one [;-)]

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  • 1 month later...
New question based on reading some of the previous pages. A few replies state that french heating oil is red diesel, mine is clear not red and looks like the Kerosine we use in the UK. The supplier says it is Fioul Domesttique LE M3.

How can I check if it is diesel, I have a Kubota mower and spend hours lugging cans of diesel, could I safely use this heating oil instead?
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[quote user="shifty"]New question based on reading some of the previous pages. A few replies state that french heating oil is red diesel, mine is clear not red and looks like the Kerosine we use in the UK. The supplier says it is Fioul Domesttique LE M3.

How can I check if it is diesel, I have a Kubota mower and spend hours lugging cans of diesel, could I safely use this heating oil instead?[/quote]

Wrong place to pose this question.

Would probably receive more cogent and meaningful responses in the main House Renovation thread.

Short first answer: I have never heard of French heating oil which is not coloured red; since Mazout or Fioul is usually so coloured to prevent its use in road vehicles where the duty is higher.

Same with diesel dedicated for agricultural usage: lower rate of duty than gazoil, destined for road use.

Ask your supplier for a technical specification viscosity, etc.

Using kero or paraffin in a modern high-revving diesel engine would soon ruin it as the injector pump demands a lubricating function from the fuel which does not exist in kero or gasoil. (Straight Run).

It would probably work OK in an old slow revving, long stroke diesel engine such as a two pot Ailsa-Craig designed for fishing boats.

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